Ecuador, Peru to elect presidents amid strengthened pandemic

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Presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso, representing the Creating Opportunities party or CREO, flashes a thumbs up at a campaign rally in Cayambe, Ecuador, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. Lasso, a former banker, and rival Andres Arauz, a protege of former president Rafael Correa, will compete in a second-round vote this coming Sunday, April 11. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

LIMA – A surging coronavirus pandemic that has brought on new lockdown measures and exacerbated fatigue in Ecuador and Peru has left many voters generally indifferent to the names they will see on the ballots Sunday, when the neighboring South American nations are set to choose new presidents.

No candidate in each nation has garnered enough support to be a clear favorite, and after a year of collective suffering and corruption scandals, voters seem to be hoping for a winner who can pull them out of the pandemic’s economic mess with the least stumbles possible.

Ecuadoreans face a runoff between conservative businessman Guillermo Lasso and Andrés Arauz, a disciple of former leftist President Rafael Correa. The winner will succeed President Lenin Moreno — a former Correa ally who turned against him while in office and who is not seeking reelection.

Peruvians, meanwhile, face a tangled field of 18 candidates following years of political turmoil that have seen a series of presidents and even the whole congress itself ousted over corruption scandals. A runoff in June is virtually assured. All seats in congress, too, are being contested.

The country is among those hardest hit by COVID-19, with more than 1.5 million confirmed cases and over 53,400 deaths.

“There is no work, there are no opportunities in the countryside, so we migrate to the city and many people are already in the city,” said Hernaldo Carbajal, who came from Peru's hinterlands to seek work in Lima, the country’s capital. “In my opinion, may the best man for peasants and provincials win.”

Amid the pandemic, Peru faced political chaos in November, when it cycled through three presidents in a week after one was impeached by Congress over corruption allegations and protests forced his successor to resign.

Ecuador meanwhile saw an Indigenous uprising in October 2019 that paralyzed the country for several days and forced the government to back down on a move to end fuel subsidies.